Sunday, January 11, 2015

PGR & Zilberman – Poezjazz (2014)

PGR & Zilberman

Grzegorz Rogala - trombone
Sagit Zilberman - alto saxophone
Witold Janiak - piano
Wojciech Pulcyn - double bass
Krzysztof Szmańda - drums
Barbara Rogala - vocal
Małgorzata Hutek - vocal



By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by the Polish/Israeli ensemble, co-led by Polish trombonist Grzegorz Rogala and Israeli saxophonist Sagit Zilberman. The ensemble includes also pianist Witold Janiak, bassist Wojciech Pulcyn and drummer Krzysztof Szmańda. Two vocalists also take part in this recording: Barbara Rogala, who sings (in Hebrew) on one track and Małgorzata Hutek, who sings (in Polish) on two other tracks. The album presents seven original compositions, five of which were composed by Rogala, two were composed by Zilberman and the remaining track is a traditional melody arranged by Rogala. The lyrics of two of the vocal tracks are by the Polish/Jewish writer Bruno Schultz, murdered during the Holocaust, and the third vocal track uses the Biblical text taken from the "Song of Songs". The album was recorded at the excellent Studio Tokarnia, with Jan Smoczynski presiding, which of course is a trademark of excellent sound quality.

The album's title is misleading, as it implies that the entire album belongs to the Jazz & Poetry sub-genre, which of course is more popular in Polish Jazz than anywhere else on this planet. However since only the three vocal tracks fall within the idiom's boundaries, this extrapolation is unjustified and confusing.

The album presents a series of fine mainstream compositions, mostly well built and quite interesting, all very well executed by the musicians, who are all professional and talented. Rogala is the main soloist and his trombone parts are always a pleasure to listen to, displaying sparks of virtuosity and highly personal stylistic approach. The rest of the instrumental parts are, as already stated, well done, but somewhat lack a flicker of inspiration or luster, which would make this music truly exciting. The vocal parts don't work very well, as the singers struggle with the text trying to fit it within the complex melodic and harmonic structure of the songs or with a language (Hebrew) they are not familiar with, but of course are by and large acceptable.

In short this is a nice album, which many listeners will find satisfactory, but considering the incredible high level of albums released in Poland these days, it certainly does not reach the level of excellence one would hope for.


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